Reporting sexual harassment

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Reporting sexual harassment

Support for those affected by sexual harm

If you’re looking for help to do with sexual harm, the Government’s Safe to talk helpline offers free confidential contact with trained specialists. Available at any time, day or night, seven days a week. Contact Safe to talk on 0800 044 334.

We also have an information page for support for victims of sexual harm.


Fire and Emergency New Zealand defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome or offensive sexual behaviour that is repeated, or significant enough as a single incident to have a harmful effect on a person. It may involve spoken or written material, images, digital material or a physical act.

The data reported here records complaints made about sexual harassment over the past five years. Complaints of this nature could be about behaviour such as offensive sexual remarks or jokes, unwelcome touching or intrusive personal questions, or sexual assault.

We know there are significant barriers to reporting behaviour of this kind. The Review identified these as fear of the consequences of reporting bullying or speaking up against unacceptable behaviour, a sense of team loyalty and wanting to fit in, a lack of trust in practices for managing issues and complaints and difficulty accessing information on how to report a complaint.

Prior to 2017, the organisations that now form part of Fire and Emergency each had different definitions of sexual harassment, no active requirement to report them and when they did report them, different ways of reporting. This means our data is limited.

We expect to see the numbers of complaints about unacceptable behaviour climb each year as we progress towards making Fire and Emergency an inclusive and respectful organisation and as more people feel increasingly safe about making complaints.  We are also developing a system of capturing and recording complaints as recommended in the Review.

As part of us acknowledging our ongoing work in this space, we are publishing information relating to the number of complaints of sexual harassment received by Fire and Emergency and the former NZ Fire Service and resulting disciplinary action over the past five years. 

2015

In 2015 there was one complaint of sexual harassment. This was made by a volunteer firefighter about another volunteer firefighter. Disciplinary action was taken against the accused and that person resigned.

2016

In 2016 there were three complaints of sexual harassment. All three complaints were about volunteer firefighters. One was made by a volunteer firefighter and two were made by members of the public. Two of these complaints were not upheld, however one individual was warned for inappropriate behaviour. The third complaint was upheld. Disciplinary action was taken and the accused resigned.

2017

In 2017 there were four complaints of sexual harassment. All four complaints were about volunteer firefighters and made by other volunteer firefighters. Two of the complaints were not upheld and were resolved informally. The third complaint was upheld and the accused was dismissed. There was a fourth complaint that contained allegations of sexual harassment and other matters. This complaint has not yet been fully resolved.

2018

In 2018 there were six complaints of sexual harassment. Five of the complaints were about volunteer firefighters, the sixth was about a Fire and Emergency employee. Four were made by volunteer firefighters and two were made by Fire and Emergency employees. Disciplinary action was taken in three of these complaints. This did not result in any of the accused being dismissed, however one is no longer employed with Fire and Emergency. The other three complaints were resolved between the parties.

2019

In 2019 there were eight complaints of sexual harassment – one of these was an historic complaint. Six of these were about volunteer firefighters, one was about a Fire and Emergency employee and the subject of one complaint could not be identified. Three of these were made by volunteer firefighters, three were made by members of the public and two by Fire and Emergency employees. Two of these complaints remain ongoing after being referred to Police. One was resolved informally. In two instances, the accused was dismissed (both were volunteers) and in one instance, the accused resigned. As the subject of one complaint could not be identified, no action could be taken. The historic complaint has been resolved, however there was no finding due to its historical nature and the unavailability of relevant previous staff.

2020

In 2020 there have been two complaints of sexual harassment. Both were about volunteer firefighters and made by volunteer firefighters. Both complaints remain ongoing after being referred to Police.

Sexual harassment complaints 2014 – June 2020

Calendar Year

Number of complaints

Made by volunteer firefighter

Made by career firefighter

Made by other employee

Made by members of the public

About volunteer firefighter

About career firefighter

About other employee

2014

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2015

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

2016

3

1

0

0

2

3

0

0

2017

4

4

0

0

0

4

0

0

2018

6

4

0

2

0

5

0

1

2019*

8

3

0

2

3

6

0

1

2020 YTD

2

2

0

0

0

2

0

0


*
The subject of one complaint in 2019 could not be identified

Resulting actions to sexual harassment complaints 2014 – June 2020

Calendar Year

Number of complaints

Number of complaints upheld

Complaints referred to Police

Number of complaints resulting in dismissal

Number of complaints where other disciplinary action was taken against the accused

Number of complaints resolved informally

Number of complaints still ongoing

2014

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2015

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

2016

3

1

0

0

2

0

0

2017

4

1

0

1

0

2

1

2018

6

3

0

0

3

3

0

2019*

8

3

2

2

1

1

2

2020 YTD

2

0

2

0

0

0

2

* As the subject of one complaint could not be identified, no action could be taken

Fire and Emergency has always been committed to being transparent about our work to address the recommendations of the Review. We are addressing these recommendations collectively through our Positive Workplace Programme rather than each individually and publicly report on this programme’s progress every six months. Here’s our latest six-monthly progress report.